Cardiotoxicity, damage to the heart or cardiovascular system, occurs as an unfortunate side effect associated with many medications, particularly those used for treating cancer. While experts have long recognized the association between cardiotoxicity and chemotherapy and radiation therapy, newer cancer treatments like targeted therapies and immunotherapies can also lead to cardiotoxicity.
Cancer treatment-related cytotoxicity can appear as side effects like elevated blood pressure, heart arrhythmia, and even heart failure. Any form of cardiotoxicity can negatively impact the quality of life of cancer survivors. Thus, approaches to control these side effects, while maintaining the anti-cancer efficacy of treatment, could significantly benefit cancer survivorship.
Heart failure occurs when an individual experiences left or right ventricle dysfunction. Doctors use a technique called cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR) imaging to visualize the morphology of the ventricles and evaluate their function. A new study published in Science Advances has investigated which proteins associate with unique CMR measurements and cardiac outcomes, including heart failure, non-ischemic cardiomyopathy, dilated cardiomyopathy, atrial fibrillation, and coronary heart disease.
The researchers performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS), an approach that allowed them to find genetic variants associated with a high risk of developing cardiotoxicity. The GWAS evaluated the DNA of over 36,000 patients with heart disease to identify genetic variants linked to characteristics seen in CMR imaging.
Next, the researchers used a statistical approach called cis-Mendelian randomization (MR) to determine causal relationships between unique risk factors and the development of cardiotoxicity. The researchers identified 33 proteins associated with heart disease and CMR measurements.
The authors suggest that these proteins provide valuable information to develop drugs for cardiac diseases. Further, a similar analysis could support comprehensive screening of cancer patients to identify those at high risk for developing cancer treatment-related cardiotoxicity. Doctors could use this information to inform treatment planning and provide additional cardiac monitoring to high-risk individuals receiving cancer therapy.